Messaging vs Webchat – Which Is Best for Customer Support
Webchat and messaging have both become common means by which customers can interact with their favourite brands and companies. However, to the uninitiated, the differences between messaging and webchat as a means of customer interaction may not be so apparent. Indeed, the two terms are often used interchangeably. There are however a few key differences that distinguish these two methods of communication, and both have specific advantages that they can bring to your business.
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What Is Messaging?
What exactly is messaging? Without out overly complicating things, messaging can be described as a form of ‘asynchronous communication’ (i.e communication that doesn’t happen in real-time).
To better understand this, let’s first consider the communication tools we have used in the past.
In the case of telephony, we needed to speak or text each other at the same time, always communicating in real time. The same is true of early text chat. You had to set up a session once and send each other text messages within that session. It was, so to speak, ‘synchronous communication’.
Messaging is also often referred to as chat, so people may confuse the two, but there is a clear difference between messaging and session-based chat. The advent of messaging applications has changed the form of communication between individuals. Messaging does not require both participants to be ‘present’ in the interaction. Messages can be sent and received at the convenience of the participants and an immediate response is not required. The features of messaging are described below.
The Growing Use of Messaging in Customer Support
Chat has also played a major role in the world of customer support. Embedded in websites, chat was initially called ‘web chat’, and quickly became the main channel because it allowed people to text each other directly without having to make a phone call first! The convenience of messaging soon meant that it became the most popular means of communication. However, now that messaging has become so widespread, the chat channel also needs to change. In fact, messaging has brought about a dramatic change in the nature of personal and business-to-business communication.
Especially after the Corona virus pandemic, messaging traffic has skyrocketed. This has led to the rapid proliferation of messaging apps such as LINE, Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp.
✅ Messaging app platforms are actively providing APIs to the enterprise side, and companies are utilising chat and messaging.
By introducing messaging into customer support, they are responding to the needs of customers who want to communicate with companies through their preferred apps and channels.
Let’s look a little deeper into why messaging has so much potential as a game changer in communication between individuals and businesses. What is the difference between web chat and messaging in the first place?
What Is Webchat?
To begin with, let’s review web chat again. You may have noticed the chat boxes that are often present on website such as for online banking or government services, offering the customer the chance to speak with a live agent if necessary. This is an example of a webchat engagement window.
Web chat allows you to begin sending messages on the spot, by creating a session between you and the support agent. The session is set up so that the company support agent and the customer are on the same footing and can start talking to each other.
At the end of the chat session, when the support agent closes the session, it is then terminated forever, and all record of the interaction is lost. This means that if you forget to ask another question related to the issue you were discussing, the session has to be re-started, most likely with a different agent, and the customer will have to explain the context of their query again.
Characteristics of messaging
Messaging is also synonymous with chat (web chat) in the sense that textual information is exchanged. However, messaging allows time-independent communication. In other words, you can send messages when you want to send them, and the recipient can reply at their own pace.
One distinct difference from webchat is that it keeps a history, much like when using apps like whatsapp or Facebook messenger. It is a form of asynchronous communication and does not require both parties to be ‘present’ in real-time for the communication to continue.
Web Chat or Messaging?
At this point however, you may be wondering which is the best method for customer support – web chat or messaging? To make the decision that’s best for your business, it important to have a thorough knowledge of both methods.
You may be thinking, “but webchat and messaging are almost the same”. While this might seem like the case on the surface, messaging is in fact very different from chat, albeit in nuances. It’s most apt to describe messaging as the ‘next-generation’ communication channel.
✅ Influenced by social networking, messaging has features not found in chat and webchat.
Examples of where messaging as a channel may be superior include features such as an indicator that the other person is typing, a read indicator and group chats.
And as mentioned again, asynchronous communication allows users to start and stop conversations whenever they want and a history is kept so that contextual conversations can be resumed on the fly.
In the context of customer support, this brings benefits not only the customer side, but also on the agent side. This is because it eliminates the need for extra staffing during peak hours.
Let’s dive a little deeper into the benefits of messaging and web chat.
Advantages of Web Chat
The real-time nature is the biggest selling point of web chat, and it certainly benefits both customers and companies, allowing for quick customer response. You can thus improve customer retention on your website and also build an efficient customer support team with personnel available to handle multiple chats.
Advantages of Messaging
Unlike web chat, asynchronous communication is the greatest benefit of messaging, which eliminates the real-time nature. Neither customers nor operators are bound by time, and both can continue to communicate at their own pace. This is why it has been accepted by so many users in practice and has firmly established itself as the main communication method today.
Customers can use messaging on any device, whether it is their own channel or a third-party channel. The ability to communicate through this customer-preferred channel is of great convenience for the customer.
⚠️ In Europe and the US, certain demographics (especially among Generation Z), are more likely to buy from a brand if they have messaging.
In terms of operators, the introduction of messaging has been shown to reduce turnover and attrition rates. This is partly because with telephone calls, the agent is connected to the customer in real time and has to listen and react to what they are saying on the spot. The agent has to make important decisions in real-time and may sometimes even have to deal with abuse from customers.
Messaging allows agents to take time and provide a considered response. They don’t have to deal with the stress of facing an angry or abusive customer. Above all, they aren’t limited to dealing with just one customer in real-time, but have more mental space and flexibility to deal with multiple customer enquiries at the same time.
The feature of a messaging history is also not to be overlooked. In the case of webchat, you can chat to customer support about a problem and be told to “try solution X”, hang up the chat once, try the suggestion and it doesn’t work. If you then try to connect again via webchat, you will have to start the conversation all over again.
With messaging, the conversation history is stored until you receive a suggestion that actually solves of improves the problem. If you try an improvement suggestion and it doesn’t work, you can immediately return to the conversation with customer support at that point. You can send questions whenever you think of them and receive replies when the person in charge is available. In this way the customer experience is much improved.
Messaging, a Tool With Potential
In fact, the number of enquiries through messaging channels has increased sharply over the past year. With messaging, you can communicate with companies using the same app you use to contact your friends. Moreover, you can receive personalised support from the company via the app at any time.
From the company’s point of view, the introduction of messaging as a communication channel with customers has the advantage that it can respond efficiently to spikes in call volumes. Messaging channels fit in with flexible working practices, such as telecommuting, as they do not necessarily require an immediate response; AI and chatbots can be implemented to automate the initial response. The result is increased customer convenience and superior customer support.
Providing support to customers on the channel they want will be the future of the customer experience in this world. After the Corona disaster, which saw a marked shift to online, the adoption of messaging will be key to future business growth.
⚠️ Messaging is not an ad hoc means of communication.
Of course, this does not mean that the existing channels such as telephone and email will disappear. Telephone and email will continue to function as customer contact points as they always have. However, by introducing messaging, you can provide a more personalised customer experience and meet customer expectations.
Make your customer support environment accessible through any channel – website, app or social networking site. Enhance customer communication through messaging. Use messaging to create a superior customer experience in customer support.